Why I Love the Dentist


I got an e-mail from my friend Grizelle Sanchez last week.  She said she was at the dentist’s office and that right in the middle of getting her teeth cleaned, her stomach growled loudly.  She pushed the dentist’s hand out of her mouth and yelled, “It’s Bo Time,” and jumped out of the chair and acted like she was going to run out of the dentist’s office.  She said the dentist and his assistant cracked up at her antics.   

I guess the reason that she sent the e-mail was to let me know that the “It’s Bo Time” campaign that we came up with for Bojangles’ really was having an impact in real life.  I thought about that for a second and was proud that BooneOakley had created something cool.  Then I started thinking about going to the dentist.

Going to the dentist is not really a pleasant experience for most people.  It’s always been associated with pain.  But for me I’ve always kind of liked it.  At least since I was 15.  Not the pain so much, but the pleasure. Or should I say, treasure that awaited me when I visited Dr. Sneed’s office in Oxford, North Carolina.

Dr Sneed’s office was pretty non-descript.  It had the standard plaid fabric waiting couches with wood end tables.  On each of the tables was an assortment of out-of-date magazines.  Usually when I got there, I’d just plop down on the couch and bide my time by thumbing thru Southern Living, People or Redbook until the receptionist called my name to go back into the torture chamber. 


I really hated going there.  Until one time I showed up and I really had to go the bathroom.   Their bathroom was locked so I stood outside the door waiting and pacing for about 10 minutes.  Finally, I went to the receptionist and told her that I really had to go and that the bathroom was locked and that I’d been waiting for a really long time.  She looked at me and could tell that I was moments away from crapping on the floor.  She said that at the end of the hall was Dr. Sneed’s private bathroom. 

I had been going to Dr Sneed’s for years and had never noticed another bathroom but I made a beeline for it.  I ran in, sat down on the toilet, looked around and couldn’t believe my eyes.  On a shelf in front of the toilet were more Playboys and Penthouse magazines than I had seen in my entire life.  There must have been 50 of them.  On the tank behind the crapper there was another stack.  I “read” a couple of them and a half hour or so later, went back out to the waiting room.  

After that, I did everything I could to go to the dentist.  I got a toothache every few days.  When I had braces, I used my dad’s wire clipper to clip the wire on my braces. 

“Mom, my wire broke and I need to go get it fixed.  Can you take me to Dr. Sneed’s?”  I’d always arrive at least a half an hour early for my appointment so I’d have plenty of reading time. 

Most dentists recommend that you see them twice a year.  I was going twice a week. 

I even volunteered to drive my sister Lisa to the dentist after school.   It was a special day because this was the day that Lisa was going to get her braces off.   I drove my ’65 VW Beetle and it broke down on the way.  By the time that my mom drove to pick us up, Dr. Sneed’s office was closed for the weekend.  

Lisa was distraught that she would have to wait until Monday to get her traintracks taken off.  I was devastated because I’d have to wait two more days to see Miss March.


Things have changed a bit since I was an adolescent.  Last week, I took my teenage son Lucas to the dentist here in Charlotte, and I was amazed at the lengths that they had gone to make it a low stress, fun environment.  As soon as we walked in, we were greeted with two 50-inch plasma flat screen TV’s.  One was showing Sponge Bob and the other was tuned to The Discovery Channel.  We checked in and walked over and plopped down on the cushy couch in front of the Myth Busters guys.  But these two shows weren’t our only choices to pass the time.   They had X-box and Playstation2 hookups and we could choose between Mario Cart, Pinata Party, Madden 2010 and Pokemon.  

This certainly wasn’t Dr. Sneed’s office, although I noticed that they did have the exact same magazines on the end tables:  Redbook, People and Southern Living. 

“Hmmm…,” I thought to myself.

Just then Laura, the bubbly dental hygienist, strolled over and said, “Lucas are you ready?”  Lucas said yes and followed her back to the examining room.  

As soon as they disappeared out of sight, I walked over to the receptionist and asked, “Excuse me, where’s the restroom?”


Aunt Hallie's Heels

Why did Tyler Hansbrough’s decide to stay in school for his senior year?  The consensus is that he came back to win a national championship for North Carolina.  And to atone for the ass-kicking that Kansas put on the Heels in the Final Four the year before.  (You might recall, the Tar Heels fell behind by 40-12 to start the game.)  That certainly was no way for a great player to end his career.  While these reasons make a lot of sense, I believe the reason Tyler played his senior season at Carolina is because of a chance meeting with my Aunt Hallie.

Aunt Hallie and I were all smiles after the Tar Heels won it all in 2009.

Aunt Hallie is in her mid 70’s and has been a Carolina fan for as long as I can remember.  She also is a big fan of her nieces and nephews, 3 of which graduated from UNC.  She hates Duke, but I’m not sure if that is because of the university or because she was a nurse for 40 years at Durham County General Hospital.  Duke Hospital was their rival.  Whatever the reason, she watches the Tar Heels whenever they are on TV.  If they’re winning, she’ll stay up “until midnight to see my boys.”  But if they are having an off night, she’ll walk up to the TV, turn it off and say, “If that’s as good as you’re going to play, I’m going to bed.”   I’m sure she was asleep by halftime of that Kansas game.

Aunt Hallie lives in Butner and does most of her grocery shopping at the local Food Lion.  But when she has a doctor’s appointment she shops at the Harris-Teeter near University Mall in Chapel Hill.  Why do I know this?  Because in the spring of 2008, a few weeks after the basketball season, Aunt Hallie called and told me about her trip to the Harris-Teeter. 

She said she was pushing her cart through the produce section and noticing how their tomatoes weren’t as red ripe as the ones she grew in her garden when she looked up and saw a very tall man.  “This guy was the tallest person I had ever seen,” she enthusiastically said to me.  “I knew he had to be a basketball player.” 

So Aunt Hallie said she walked over to the man and looked up at him and said, “Do you play basketball?”  He looked down at Aunt Hallie, who is about 5’2”, and said, “Yes, I do.” 

“I knew it,” she replied.  “I knew you were a basketball player.  Now tell me, do you play for Duke or for Carolina?”  

“I play for Carolina,” he patiently replied.  

“Are you sure?”   

“Ah, yeah, I’m sure.”  Aunt Hallie said he looked at her like she was out of her frickin’ mind, like ‘how could you not instantly recognize me…I’m the frickin’ National Player of the Year.’ 

“I knew it.”  She said again.  “What’s your name?”

“Tyler.  Tyler Hansbrough.”

“You’re Tyler?”

“Yes, I am.” 

“Well, Lord have mercy.  I can’t believe I’m standing here talking to Tyler.  My name’s Hallie.” 

“Nice to meet you, Hallie,” he replied. 

“I can’t wait to tell my niece and nephews about this.  They went to Carolina too.  You might know them.  Do you know Lisa, Ken and David Oakley?”

“No, I can’t say that I do.” 

“Well, I guess you wouldn’t know them.  They graduated about 20 years ago.”  She said she grabbed his hand and held it and said, “I can’t believe I’m standing here in the Harris-Teeter and I’m talking to Tyler.”  She said she squeezed his hand really tightly, patted it and said, “Maybe next time I see you, I’ll know who you are.  And who you play for.”  She said she let out a loud laugh and said, “I can’t believe I’m talking to Tyler.  Lordy, wait ‘til I tell my nieces and nephews who I met in the Harris-Teeter.”  She said Tyler smiled again and just looked at her like she was crazy.

Aunt Hallie called me as soon as she got back to Butner.  She didn’t call me quicker because she doesn’t believe in cell phones.  Or cable TV, for that matter.  That’s probably why she didn’t recognize Tyler.  The reception on her TV is so bad it’s like watching a game through a Wisconsin blizzard.

The next day, there was a press conference at the Dean Dome where Hansbrough announced that he had decided to forgo the millions in NBA money to stay at Chapel Hill for his senior season.  He said that he wanted to continue his college experience and he wanted a chance to win the national championship.  He had some unfinished business to take care of.  And it wasn’t to cut down the nets in Detroit. 


Tyler Hansbrough stayed at Carolina for one reason: To prove to the little old lady at the Harris-Teeter that he didn’t play for Duke.  And for that, fans of the 2009 NCAA Basketball Champion North Carolina Tar Heels owe a big batch of gratitude to my Aunt Hallie. 


PS:  Today is Aunt Hallie’s 76th birthday.  She probably will love reading this story.  But she’ll be totally pissed I just told everyone how old she was.  

A Pretty Good Business

I went to Books-A-Million a couple of days ago to exchange a book that I bought for my wife Claire.  I usually don’t go to this bookstore, but it’s right across from Bruegger’s Bagels and early every Saturday morning I buy bagels for the family for the week.  And Books-A-Million opens early. 

The reason I don’t normally go there is because it has such a dumb name.  Who came up with Books-A-Million?  It makes very little sense.  I get the books part.  They sell books.  But the “A-Million” part?  Does it mean they have a lot of books?  Or does it mean that their books are really expensive?  Either way, why not call it Books-A-Billion?  At least it’s an alliteration. 

They really should have a name that highlights what makes them different from other book stores.  Like “Books Open Early.”  Or “Open Books.”   "Open Books" has a nice double meaning.  People have to open books to read them, an open book test in high school is the easiest, and being an open book just sounds honest.  (Actually, that's a triple meaning.  Which makes it even better.)

Plus the “Open” part of "Open Books" sign would only be illuminated when they're open.  So when you drive through their parking lot, you wouldn’t have to get out of your car to check to see if they were closed.  When their open light is on, they’re open.  If not, just keep driving. 

So last Saturday morning, I walked up to the register at Books-A-Million and said to a friendly man in his late 60’s, “I bought the wrong book for my wife.  She already has this one.  Could I exchange it or get a refund?”  He said, “Of course.  I’ll keep it here and you can look around and see what you might like.”  I said thanks and went over to the humor section.  I browsed for a while and then decided to buy Brain Droppings by George Carlin. 

When I went back to the register there was a young guy working behind the counter with the older man who had Claire's book.  The older man saw me and said to the younger guy, “Would you take care of him?  He bought the wrong wife.”  He caught himself, but before he could say anything, I said, “Wow, you can exchange wives here?  That’s good to know.”  He smiled in a strange way and corrected himself.  “He bought the wrong book for his wife.”  “That was quite a Freudian slip there, eh?”  I said and laughed loudly.  He laughed a little.

I paid for my Carlin book and as I was leaving, a couple was walking into the store.  I overheard part of their conversation as they passed.  The woman said, “I’m tired of you telling me all the things you’re going to do and then you never do any of them.  Damn tired of it.”  I held the door for them and the wife walked on through.  The husband said, “Thanks,” and gave me a half-eyebrow raise, undoubtedly acknowledging that he knew that I knew that his wife was a royal pain. 

As I walked to my car, I stopped and thought for a moment.  That guy bought the wrong wife.  And he’s taking her in there for an exchange. 

Books-A-Million may have a stupid name.  But it’s stupid for a reason.  It’s a front.  A front for “The Wife Exchange.”  It probably does a pretty good business. 


Old School Super Bowl

Probably for the first time in a very long time, maybe ever, there is no pretender in the final four of the NFL playoffs.   The Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Jets, the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears all deserve to be there.  Not only on the merits of their play on the field, but on the look of their uniforms.  

Each of these teams is wearing the same uniforms that they were wearing 40 years ago.  These teams have stayed the course and haven’t given in to the whims of fashion over the years.  The result of this commitment to fashion excellence is that they are four of the most recognizable sports brands in the world.     

Oh sure, the Jets got all MC Hammerish in the eighties and wore those horrendous green helmets with JETS on the side.  But someone in New York had the fashion sense (I think it was that guy from Project Runway) to bring them back to the Joe Namath era helmet design.  Good things have been happening to the Jets ever since.

Tradition means everything in the NFL.  Apparently, so does looking good.  Think about it:  All the poser NFL teams got knocked out this weekend.  The Seattle Seahawks.   Please.  Their all grey-green unis are a disgrace.  Thank God we won’t have to see them again until September.  The Atlanta Falcons?  They’re kind of old school, but when they modernized the Falcon on their helmet, they transferred their on-the-field losing tradition to their appearance.  The Baltimore Ravens?  In my eyes they’re still a replacement team for the Colts.  Whoever designed their uniforms is a sick practical joker or colorblind.  Or both.  Black pants?  C’mon.  The New England Patriots have a winning tradition, but they are total fashion losers.  They abandoned their white helmets with the patriot hiking the football and switched to the silver helmets with the “speedy head” on the side in the mid 1990’s.  They’ve been torturing the eyes of America ever since. 

So who do I think will win the Super Bowl in three weeks?  The fans.  Because no matter whether it’s the Jets, Packers, Steelers or Bears that hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy, one thing's for certain:  They’ll look good doing it.    

On February 6th, I’ll just sit back with the rest of America and enjoy the beautiful old school pageantry.  And be very happy that the Tennessee Titans are nowhere to be seen.

Mike Hughes Hall?

I heard recently that the VCU Brand Center in Richmond named a hall after Mike Hughes, my old boss at The Martin Agency.  I thought it was kind of nice that they did that, but I felt Mike deserved something more.  

Having a hall named after you is OK I guess, but I wondered why didn’t they name a classroom after him?  He’s a fantastic teacher.  Or an auditorium?  He’s a fantastic speaker.  OK… he’s a good speaker.  They could have named the gymnasium after him.  He’s quite a coach.  But they named a hall after him. 

C’mon VCU, a hall?  A hall is something that you walk through on the way to class.  It's a step up from having a broom closet named after you, I suppose.  And it's better than having a rest room named after you.  But not much. 

I was really confused until I saw this picture:  

Apparently in Virginia, a hall is a building.  That’s pretty cool.  Mike helped build both The Martin Agency and The Brand Center into something incredible.  So they named a building after him.  Now it all makes sense.   

Congrats Mike.  What a great honor.  But if it were up to me, it wouldn’t be Mike Hughes Hall.  It would be Virginia Commonwealth Hughesiversity.  

My Top 5 Blog Posts of 2010.


Since there's a year-end list for everything, I thought it was only appropriate that I rank my Top 5 Blog Posts of 2010.  And when I say my blog posts, I mean my posts:  Posts that I have written.  What’s the point of ranking other writers?  We all know that bloggers only read their own blogs. 

For most bloggers, ranking their own work is surely a difficult task.  Poring over a year’s worth of musings and trying to decide which 5 had the biggest impact on the world.  But for me, it's easy.  I just started my blog a couple of weeks ago and only have 4 posts.  So technically, I haven’t written enough to have a Top 5 list.  But since it’s my blog and I make the rules, we’ll consider this to be my 5th post.


So without further adieu, My Top 5 Blog Posts of 2010.  Drum roll please…


At Number 5, “Why is your name upside down?”  At Number 4, “A Nasty Habit.”  At Number 3, “My Top 5 Blog Posts of 2010.” At Number 2,  “The Christmas Spirit.”  And at Number 1, “Camels Under the Tree.”


How cool is that?  All 5 of my posts have made My Top 5 Blog Posts of 2010.  I love this blog.  Too bad I’m the only one reading it.


The Christmas Spirit

          Every year, right after Thanksgiving, I decorate the cedar tree in our front yard.  I cover it with those old school large multi-colored Christmas lights, the kind that were banned from indoor Christmas trees years ago because they were fire hazards.  When I started doing it 14 years ago, it only took three strands of lights to cover the cute little Christmas tree.  Then it was only about seven feet tall.  Now it’s over 30 feet tall and this year it took 27 strands to cover it.  It’s become an Oakley Christmas tradition and my personal obsession.  Decorating it is a whole weekend endeavor.  And I totally love it.  Because when it’s done, we have our own Rockefeller Center tree right here on Crooked Oak Lane.  And it always puts me in the Christmas spirit.

Getting lights to the top of a 30-foot tall cedar tree is no easy task.  But over the years, I’ve devised a jack-legged system that actually works.  I use 2-inch PVC pipe, and spray paint each 10-foot long section black and attach the star and the lights to the end of the pipe.  Then I attach two more 10-foot pipes to the end of that pipe and push the star and the lights to the top of the tree.  Invariably, there are always a few things that I need to complete this project.  And this year was no exception.  I needed some extra PVC pipe, fuses, replacement lights and some black spray paint.  So I hopped in the car and headed for the Lowe’s on Johnston Road.

Some people would consider going to a big box hardware store in the middle of decorating a Christmas tree to be a chore.  But not me.  It always brings back memories of going there with my dad.  After I moved to Charlotte, each year on Christmas Eve, my dad and I would go to Lowe’s to Christmas shop for each other.  It was fantastic because hardly anyone was ever there and we had the whole store to ourselves.  While everyone else was at the mall, we’d walk around and buy rakes, shovels and drill sets for each other.  Then we’d go home and wrap them and put them under the tree.  A rake wrapped in Santa paper with a big red bow on it is a very funny site.  I smiled to myself as I grabbed a shopping cart with a worn Scooby Doo sticker on the handle.  I pushed it inside and started gathering my goods.

I went to the Christmas section first to get replacement light bulbs.  This is the part of the store that normally is where you’d find houseplants, but during the holidays, it’s packed with every kind of decoration that you could imagine.  Even old school replacement lights.  I pushed my cart through the clutter and finally found them at the very back.  I put 24 four-packs of lights in my basket.  Six packs of red, six packs of green and four packs each of blue, white and orange.  I grabbed a couple of extension cords and pushed my cart back into the main store.  I went over to the paint aisle and found the duct tape and the black spray paint.  I had no idea where to find fuses for Christmas lights so I stopped one of the guys with the red vests.

“Where would I find fuses?”  I asked.

“What do you need them for?”

“For Christmas tree lights.”  I said as I held up the tiny burnt out fuse that I brought with me.

“Automotive fuses are on Aisle 6.  But I’ll bet they have packs of fuses for Christmas lights over in the holiday department.  They’ll probably be hanging near the back on little I-hooks like this.”  He pointed to some tacks hanging on a shelf beside him.  “If you don’t find them there, come back and get some automotive fuses.  They’ll probably work, but they might be more expensive.”

“Thanks, I appreciate it,” I said as I turned my cart around and headed back toward the holiday department.

I still needed to get PVC pipe from the main store but the pipe came in 10-foot sections so I wanted to get it last.  I went back into the holiday department and pushed my cart through the crowded aisles looking for fuses.  Maneuvering through the narrow spaces between the Norfolk Island Pines and boxes of holiday accent rugs wasn’t easy, so I parked my cart and walked toward the back of the department where I had found the replacement lights earlier.  I scoured each and every shelf looking for the I-hooks that the Lowe’s guy had told me about but I couldn’t find them anywhere.  “Oh well,” I thought to myself,  “I’ll just go back and get some expensive automotive fuses.” 

So I walked back over to my cart.  But when I got to where I left it, it wasn’t there.  “That’s odd,” I thought, “Maybe I left it on the next aisle over.  Every thing in here is so crowded it all looks alike to me.”  I walked over to the next aisle and didn’t see my cart there either.  Maybe someone pushed it out of the way.  I walked over by the inflatable Santa playing golf with Rudolph and looked up and down that aisle and still no cart.  I walked back to where I found the replacement lights and still nothing. Did I leave the cart back in the main building?  I walked back to the entrance to the department and nothing.  A weird sense of panic started to overtake me.  Not because I had lost my cart, but because I thought I had lost my mind.  I’d only left it there for 2 or 3 minutes.  Had I developed a sudden case of what my mom calls CRS disease?  Can’t Remember Shit.  Was I experiencing my first senior moment?  I walked back where I thought I left the cart between the Norfolk Island Pines and the accent rugs.  But still no cart.

Then I saw it.  Not my cart, but a package of red Christmas replacement lights sitting on a clear 4-inch saucer.  It was on the top shelf of a “Grab A Saucer” display of plastic holiday serving trays.  On the second shelf was a pack of green lights and blue lights and as I looked farther down I saw the rest of my replacement lights.  Someone had dumped my stuff and had pilfered my cart.  But I didn’t see the black spray paint or the duct tape or extension cords.  Maybe they were still in the cart.  I looked around at the closest cart in sight.  In it was a Christmas cactus and an orchid.  Beside it stood an elderly African American women.  She was holding another orchid.

“I can’t find my cart.  Did you see anyone push a cart out of here?”  I said to her.

“I saw a lady get a cart a minute ago and push it out of here.”


“In there.” And she pointed back into the main part of Lowe’s.

“Thanks,” I said and I briskly walked back toward the main entrance looking in each cart along the way, hoping to see the black spray paint and duct tape still there and confront the cart thief.

I looked in 6 or 7 carts and saw nothing of mine so I went back to the entrance to the store and got another cart.  I couldn’t understand why someone would go to the trouble of emptying my cart when they could get their own by walking 75 feet to the front of the store.  I wheeled my new cart to the “Grab a Saucer” display and started replacing the replacement lights into my new cart.  As I bent down to grab the last pack of lights, I looked across the aisle and right beside the Orchid Plus water-soluble orchid food I saw my can of spray paint and the duct tape.  “Well,” I thought to myself as I put them into my new cart, “at least I don’t have to go all the way back to the paint section to get those.”

I pushed my new cart by the lady who I had just spoken to.  I glanced at her cart with the orchid and the Christmas cactus in it and I did a double take.  On the handle of her cart was a worn Scooby Doo sticker.  I couldn’t believe it.  This innocent sweet looking little old lady had stolen my cart.  Not only that, she had lied to my face about it and blamed it on somebody else.  I looked over at her.  She was looking at the orchids.

“I can’t believe someone stole my cart.”  I said to her.

She slowly turned around to me and said, “Do you know anything about orchids?  Are they hard to raise?”

I couldn’t believe that this woman was asking me about orchids right after she dumped all of my stuff and stole my cart.  I wasn’t really sure what to say.  I wanted to confront her and say that her cart was actually my cart.  It’s got a Scooby Doo sticker on it, after all.  But she was so sweet and nice and innocent looking.

“They are hard to raise,” I said, “You have to be careful how much you water them and you need to use the right fertilizer.  I think Miracle Grow is the right kind, but I’m not sure.”

“Thank you.”  She said.

I stood there for a minute just staring at the Scooby Doo sticker on her cart.  Then I looked at her and back at the cart.  Just enough to let her know that I knew that she was a cart jacker.

Then I pushed my new cart out of the holiday department back into the main area of Lowe’s and went straight to get the PVC pipe.  All the while I was asking myself why was I such a wimp that I didn’t call her out for stealing my cart?

I went back to the plumbing aisle and I took two 10-foot PVC pipes out of the rack and balanced them across my cart.  I gingerly turned the cart around without knocking anything off the shelves with my pipe and pointed it in the direction of the checkout aisle.  Just as I got to the checkout, I realized that in the midst of all the confusion, I had forgotten to get the fuses.  So I turned the cart around and pushed it back toward the electrical aisle.  This time I wasn’t as graceful in my turning.  The end of the PVC pipe hit a display of pre-packaged Kobalt tool sets and the whole stack tumbled to the floor.  As I stopped to pick them up, two thoughts went through my mind:  One, I can’t believe that lady stole my cart and two, if she hadn’t stolen my cart I wouldn’t have been so flustered that I picked up the PVC pipe before the fuses.  I would have gotten the pipe last and headed straight to the checkout.  The more I thought about the thief, the more pissed I got.  Not only at her, but at myself for not confronting her about it.

I got the fuses, I checked out and swiped my Visa card for $79.47.  I carefully pushed my cart out the front door and through the parking lot to my car.  I loaded my three bags into the front seat and rolled the back window down and slid the PVC pipe in the window.  I grabbed my cart and pushed it back to the cart return. 

As I let go of my cart, I knew I couldn’t let go of the incident that just occurred.  I turned around and started walking across the parking lot back toward Lowe’s.  I was going back in.  I had to tell the lady that I knew she stole my cart.

I walked toward the entrance to the garden department and when I was about 50 yards away from the open-air checkout, I saw the cart-jacker waiting in line to pay.  Apparently she saw me too, because she left her cart and walked two aisles over, turned her back to me and started looking at the pansy display.  I walked up to her cart, which was third in line to checkout and inside it was a Christmas cactus and two Orchids.  My first thought was to remove the flowers and take my cart, but that would have been stooping to her level.

Instead, I looked once more at the Scooby Doo sticker and had a better idea.  I reached over and picked up a 50 lb bag of Scott’s Southern Gold Premium Starter Fertilizer.  Then I picked up another.  And another.  And I put all three bags in her cart.  I looked over at her and her back was still to me in full on avoidance.

I walked over to where she was standing and said, “By the way, I found my cart.”

“You did?”  She said with a look of surprise.

“Yes,” I smiled.  “And I just came over to remind you to get plenty of fertilizer for your orchids.”

“Oh thank you.”

“You’re welcome and have a Merry Christmas,” I said as I walked out of Lowe’s and back into the Christmas spirit.